Nutrition in developing countries

The prevalence of malnutrition worldwide is staggering. Globally, two billion people suffer from malnutrition in one form or another. Of these two billion people it is estimated that:

Women and girls are at higher risk of being affected by malnutrition—60% of the world’s hungry are women according to the World Food Program. Poor nutrition in women and girls means they are more likely to suffer from anemia, increasing their risk of bleeding and death during and after childbirth.

More than a third of the children who die before they reach the age of five suffer from under-nutrition. They don't have enough nutritious food and essential vitamins and minerals to grow, develop and fight off disease.

Millions of kids become permanently mentally and physically disabled because of inadequate nutrition. Undernourished children show stunted growth patterns by the age of three and have poorer cognitive skills than their well-fed peers.

Beyond these human tragedies, there are also economic implications. Researchers believe that these preventable deaths and disabilities also reduce a country's economic potential by at least 10 % due to lost productivity.

Nutrition is essential to improving and saving lives

Micronutrients such as iron, folic acid, zinc and iodine are a very cost effective way to improve birth outcomes for mother and child.  Babies born to women with inadequate nutrition may have many complications including birth defects, premature birth, and death.

Micronutrient requirements are high in adolescents. It is seen as the ‘catch-up’ period for nutritional growth. Infections and the lack of nutritious foods make it difficult for women and girls, in particular, to grow and have healthy babies.

Children who receive adequate nutrition are not as likely to die from diseases like diarrhea, malaria, pneumonia, measles and HIV.  Children who receive enough nutrition in the first 1,000 days are more likely to stay in school, contribute to the needs of their family and reach their full potential.

Every dollar spent on nutrition has great return

Experts around the world recognize that investing in the delivery of nutrients has tremendous benefits. It is estimated that every dollar spent on nutrition for a child sees an average return of $30 over their adult life.

Through global nutrition investments children will live longer, healthier lives and contribute to the development of their countries.

As one of the world's largest donors to basic nutrition programs, Canada has brought international attention to the issue of under-nutrition. We support critical nutrition programs that reduce child and maternal mortality, and health development to adulthood.

Nutrition priorities

Canada recognizes that that too many women and girls, particularly adolescent girls, continue to be denied access to the full range of health and nutrition services.

Canada is a strong believer that good nutrition is a key component of empowering women and girls. Women play an important role in food production and household food consumption decision-making. The quality of care and feeding offered to children, which is an important factor in preventing malnutrition, is critically dependent on women's education, social status, and workload.

As a strong supporter of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement Canada has three nutrition priorities in the developing world:

Supporting partners in the field

Canada is the founding donor of Nutrition International (formerly the Micronutrient Initiative) and the largest donor to vitamin A programs worldwide since 1998. We are also a lead donor to the global effort to help prevent iodine deficiency, the leading cause of preventable mental impairment.

We support Canadian and International organizations including UNICEF, Helen Keller International, World Health Organization, FHI360, Care Canada, Save the Children, World Vision, HealthBridge, Effect-Hope, and Action Against Hunger in delivering essential health and nutrition services.

Canada is also an active member of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a global commitment launched in 2012 by the G-8. The alliance seeks to encourage private investment in agriculture to benefit smallholder farmers.

And we are a long-term supporter of the HarvestPlus and their efforts to biofortify food. They breed higher amounts of critical micronutrients such as iron, zinc and vitamin A into staple food crops such as wheat, rice and cassava.

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